Remembering Martin on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today we remember a great man who helped to change the face of the United States. As one of the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is known as a man whose work toward equality was not done in vain. The following comes from the author of the young readers book, All About Martin Luther King, Jr., Todd Outcalt as he help us all in remembering Martin on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Writing a biography for children is a great gift in itself.  But talking to children about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy in America is even more remarkable.

            Children love to ask questions.  And one of my favorites came from a little girl some months ago who asked, “Do you think Martin liked school?”

All About Martin Luther King Jr.

All About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

            I assured her that Martin did, indeed, enjoy school.  In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of Martin’s life is, I believe, his amazing intellect.  As a child, Martin was always the top student in his class, and he also graduated from high school at the age of sixteen—tops in his class.  In college, same story.  And he was one of the youngest graduate students at Boston University, where he earned his Ph.D. in theology. 

            Martin was a great mind.

            For children—and for adults for that matter—remembering Martin’s academic achievements can also serve as an inspiration for students today.  Martin, even yet, provokes students of all ages to consider their own passion for learning , to strive for their best in the classroom, and to achieve all that is possible through one’s depth of knowledge and experience.

            This year, let’s salute Dr. King’s passion for learning and make a commitment to continue our own—in and out of the classroom.  That was his spirit.  And when we are learners, we continue to remember and to honor his legacy.

~Todd Outcalt 

About the Author

Todd Outcalt is a pastor, writer, husband and father. He has written for adults, children, cancer patients, and persons with disabilities. He lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with his wife and enjoys reading, kayaking, and hiking.


For more information about Blue River Press, to learn more about our All About Series, to discover our books, or interview our authors, you can contact us here. One of our representatives is ready to help you.


Writing History in Fiction

Perhaps you have decided you would like to write a story set in the past, but you have never attempted such a feat. Bestselling author, James Alexander Thom has written many historical novels. In his book, Once Upon a Time It Was Now, he shares tips and methods to help writing history in fiction.  The following is an excerpt from this book. 

In this book, I will compare historical novelists with historians.

The two are much alike; both tell stories of the past. But the historian’s viewpoint faces backward only. He is limited to looking back in time; the historical novelist is not. Limited only by imagination, a historical novelist can go wild with time, just as wild as any science-fiction writer.

For example, one day, long ago, I picked up a science-fiction book that began, “Once upon a time, there will be ….” And it went on from there to tell a story set in the future. That was a delightfully playful opening, and an understandable sentence — like something the god Janus might say. At the time, I wished I’d thought of it.

In my long career in this historical fiction business, though, I’ve found that the most effective storytelling concept is this:

Once upon a time it was now.

That has become my credo and my method as a longtime historical novelist. It’s quite simple, if you see as Janus sees:

Today is now.

Yesterday was now.

Tomorrow will be now.

Three hundred years ago, the eighteenth century was now.

You, as a historical novelist, can make any time now by taking your reader into that time. Once you grasp that, the rest is just hard work.

Stay with me, and you’ll see how such work is done.

Once Upon a Time It Was Now was published by Blue River Press in 2017 and is distributed nationally by Cardinal Publishers Group. For more information, you can contact us here or give us a call at 317-352-8200.

James Alexander Thom is an inductee of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. He has also written Saint Patrick’s Battalion (Blue River Press 2008) and Fire in the Water (Blue River Press 2016) among many other historical novels. His thoroughly-researched historical novels have sold more than two million copies. He was the inaugural winner of the Indiana Author Award in 2009. Two of his novels were made into television movies, by Hallmark and by Ted Turner. A Marine veteran, Thom lives in rural Owen County with his wife, Dark Rain, with whom he co-authored Warrior Woman.

Not Their Father’s War

By Randy Mills

Like the Korean War before it, the Vietnam War lay trapped in the shadows of WWII.  At first, the story of WWII was of dark days of great setbacks and fear, the story evolving into the dramatic process of the taking, losing, retaking, and holding of blood-soaked ground until glorious victory was achieved. Communities all over America exploded in joy on both V-E and V-J days.

Vietnam had a much different rhythm, starting out with the promise of a backward enemy easily subdued, a people saved. It offered the promise of a modern, effective mobile war, the sky filled with nimble darting helicopters, transporting troops quickly to the field to overwhelm a surprised enemy. Over time, Vietnam evolved into the bitter repeated story of the taking of a village, a hamlet, or a hill at a great loss of life, and then the giving up of the hard-won ground shortly thereafter. Frederick Downs, a 1967-1968 platoon leader in Vietnam, remembered how American troops “never owned anything except the ground they stood on. We were supposed to be winning the war, but we didn’t dare move outside our perimeters at night.”

Although the Vietnam War was starting to be questioned by 1965, families and communities were almost always stoic when one of their own left for the war. Young men who were drafted felt tremendous pressure to comply, to go quietly on the buses that took them to induction centers. They felt they could do no less than their fathers, many of whom bore physical scars from their own service to their country. In the end, the dusty World War II wool uniforms still hanging in the backs of closets all over the nation would eventually come to be like unwelcome ghosts, beckoning yet another generation to war. But Vietnam was not to be their fathers’ war.  

Randy and Roxanne Mills are the authors of Summer Wind: A Soldier’s Road from Indiana to Vietnam, Blue River Press 2017

Randy Mills is a professor of the social sciences at Oakland City University. He is the co-author of Unexpected Journey: A Marine Corps Reserve Company in the Korean War, the well-received case study of the call-up of Marine Reservists during the Korean conflict. His articles have been featured in Connections: The Hoosier Genealogist, among other publications.

Roxanne Mills is an author and an Associate Professor of English at Oakland City University in Oakland City, Indiana. She is the co-author of Unexpected Journey: A Marine Corps Reserve Company in the Korean War. Her work has been featured in journals and magazines such as Traces of Indiana and Midwest History, and Indiana Magazine of History, among others.

Summer Wind is distributed by Cardinal Publishers Group. For more information about Blue River Press and the books we publish, you can contact us or give us a call at 317-352-8202. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


To Tell or Not to Tell After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

By Barbra Cohn, author of Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s and Dementia 

After my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I didn’t tell anyone besides my best friend, parents, and our brothers. We didn’t even tell our three children for an entire year because we prayed for divine intervention or a medical miracle. I also wanted to protect our children—two of who were in college—from the devastating news that would have an everlasting effect on our family. Although it’s a personal decision whether to tell and whom to tell about a serious diagnosis there are pros and cons for telling and for not telling.

After a diagnosis it’s important to get support from family and friends. If you don’t want to let the world know, then don’t. It’s entirely up to you. But it’s important to at least let your nearest and dearest friends and family know so they can help support you.

 If you work for a company, teach at a school, or are under the direction of an organization and have gotten warnings about not meeting expectations or deadlines or about failing to perform, you are obligated to disclose your illness. Your boss might be willing to cut back your hours and responsibilities. On the other hand, you need to be prepared to accept that you will be asked to relinquish your position.

Although everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s disease, most people still do not understand how the symptoms manifest. Some people will treat you as if you have a contagious disease and will disappear from your life. Others will come forth with compassion and kindness and offer to help.

You do not need to tell everyone at once. Choose whom you want to tell, when you want to tell them, and how.

Make a list

  • Tell the people you are closest to and can count on
  • If you are still working, you will probably have to inform the person you report to.
  • Choose one or two neighbors who can assist if you need help. Put their names and numbers on the fridge.
  • Make an appointment with your attorney and financial advisor so you can get your affairs in order while you are still able to make decisions.
  • Rather than creating drama at a family gathering, have a one-on-one quiet conversation over tea with the people you choose to tell.
  • If you need to, write down beforehand what you want to say. Do you want to ask for help? Do you want a friend to take you out for a weekly walk, movie or lunch? Don’t’ be shy. Most people are more than happy to help.

So if you are wondering whom to tell about a diagnosis, take these things into consideration and hopefully those you tell will express their concern by offering concrete help.


Barbra Cohn has been a professional writer for 35 years, and has written hundreds of health and travel articles for national, regional, and local publications. For a decade, she cared for her husband, Morris, who passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 69.

You can pick up a copy of Calmer Waters:The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s and Dementia here or wherever books are sold.

If you would like to know more about Blue River Press and the books we publisher, you can contact us or call 317-352-8200.


Road Trip Trivia Books

If you’re planning to take a road trip, it’s always helpful to make a list so you don’t forget to bring all the important items needed for that trip.  If you won’t be the one in the driver’s seat the extent of the trip, you will want the list to include books! Not only do they help you pass the time, they also challenge your knowledge. At least the ones presented below.

Test Your Trivia Knowledge of States

Blue River Press offers a selection of state crosswords where you can see just much you know about a certain state. From attractions to state birds, from history to sports, you will enjoy answering questions in crossword puzzles, word searches, and trivia questions on the state of your choice. The various crossword puzzle books include the following states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Test Your Trivia Knowledge of 70’s Television Shows

Television shows began to change in the 1970s and now we can enjoy those old TV shows on special cable channels. Those 70s Shows offers history, funny anecdotes, and trivia on all of your old favorite shows from Welcome Back Kotter to Hawaii Five-O (the first time around).

Test Your Trivia Knowledge of TV Housewives

Oh those housewives! Have fun as you learn more about today’s television housewives and those from yesteryear in TV Housewives Reality Check. Your road trip will be packed full of fun with word searches, crosswords, and a variety of different puzzles to work.

Test Your Trivia Knowledge of Vampires.

This one you might want to do while the sun is still up (just saying). Do you know how to identify a vampire? How about how to destroy one? Well, that information is covered in here in Vampires Fun and Games. Additionally, there are short summaries of the 30 most popular vampire series in books and movies.

Test Your Trivia Knowledge of Zombies

This guidebook, puzzle book, and trivia book takes a humorous look at zombies. You will be reminded of movies that go all the way back to silent zombie horror films. And the newer films are included as well in Know Your Zombies. We recommend you guard your brains while testing your trivia knowledge of zombies.

Whether you are going on a family road trip, taking a quick ride to another city, or riding the bus or train to your job every day, you will have a great time working the puzzles and reading the trivia that comes along with these books.


To see more Blue River Press titles, take a look at our catalog of books. For more information, you can contact us online or give us a call at 317-352-8200. A helpful representative will be ready to answer your questions.

Blue River Press has more than one hundred books and eBooks in print covering the subjects of health, fitness, education, sports, games, popular culture, travel, and more. Recognized with awards, our books have gained national and regional review attention.

At Blue River Press our mission is to produce, distribute, and market books that present the reader with good, educational, and entertaining information with value.


~Ginger Bock



Hey, Doc, I Have a Few Questions

By Anthony Fredericks, Ed.D.

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Frederick’s most recent release, Ace Your First Year Teaching

Right about now you have some concerns and worries about this new year that is fast approaching. Yup, you and all those other beginning teachers have a ton of queries that you need answered. As I’ve chatted with beginning teachers around the country, here are some of their most frequently asked questions:

  1. What if my students don’t like me?

Guess what, not every student is going to like you. By the same token, you won’t necessarily like every single student who takes up residence in your classroom. Look back on your own educational career. Did you like every single teacher you had in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college? Most likely, no! The same will hold true in your own classroom. It’s important to remember that good teaching is not a popularity contest – it is about changing lives for the better. If you go into education to be everyone’s friend, then you’re in it for the wrong reason. If you go into it to make a difference, then you’ve chosen the right reason. Face it, teaching has nothing to do with the number of “Likes” you have on your Facebook page; but it has everything to do with changing lives for the better.

  1. What if I make a mistake?

Terrific! That’s what good teaching is all about. It’s how you handle the mistakes that’s more important than the mistakes themselves. You’ll make lots of mistakes—hundreds or them, perhaps even thousands of them. Every teacher does. I’ve made a million or so and continue to do so. I even announce that to my classes, “If you want to be perfect, go into the ministry or accounting, not teaching.” I recognize the fact that I’m imperfect and, in fact, I celebrate it. If I make a mistake in a class I let students know and then I set about to fix it. Perhaps I’ve shared some erroneous information, showed the wrong video with a particular lesson, or erred in computing a student’s grade. I fully admit my error to students and show them I’m willing to correct the mistake and make things right. My teaching philosophy has always been based on one single maxim—something I discovered long, long ago when I was in the same exact place you are right now. That is:

I’ve been learning new things for a long time now—and will continue to do so—as will you. Please don’t try to be the “perfect teacher” right out of the box. You’ll frustrate yourself and pile more stress into your day than you need. Know that you might make a mistake or two on the first day, on your second day, on your one millionth day! That’s O.K.—you’re a human being and you’re only being human by making mistakes, but you’re being a teacher when you use those mistakes as learning opportunities—learning opportunities for you as well as for your students.

  1. What if I don’t know the answer?

Great! You now have a most wonderful learning opportunity! When students ask me a question where I’m not sure of the correct answer or I simply just don’t know, I usually respond with something like, “Hey, you know what, I’m just not sure of the answer to that question. Let’s find out together.” First, I admit that I’m not the fount of all knowledge. I want to send a positive signal to students that teaching, for me, is also a learning process. I know a lot of stuff, but it’s not possible for me to know everything about everything. The same goes for you. Admit to some of your shortcomings, celebrate them, and you’ll be creating a very positive bond with your students. But, it’s the second part of my response that I encourage you to adopt (“Let’s find out together.”). Here is where you send a most incredible message to students:

Teaching and learning is a partnership; it’s a joint effort by two parties to satisfy a curiosity or discover an unknown. By letting students know that I’m by their side in this intellectual quest—that I’m willing to share part of the load—I can help solidify a partnership that can reap untold benefits later in the year. In many cases, I’ll brainstorm with one or more students for ways in which we can work to find an acceptable answer – there’s work to do for me and work my students need to do as well. We’ll come together at a later date to discuss the results of our investigations until we arrive at a satisfactory response.

Get more insight into how to ace your first year teaching with Dr. Frederick’s new book, Ace Your First Year Teaching. To learn more, you can contact us here or give us a call at 317-352-8200. We look forward to hearing from you.

About the Author

Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D

Anthony Fredericks, Ed.D. is a nationally recognized educator well known for his practical teacher materials and stimulating and engaging conference presentations. A professor of education at York College of Pennsylvania, he is an award-winning and best-selling author of more than 150 books. Check out his other Blue River Press titles, Ace Your Teacher Interview and Ace Your Teacher Resume (and Cover Letter). 


Facts in Fiction

By James Alexander Thom

Mark Twain said, “The difference between history and historical fiction is, fiction has to be believable.”

That’s funny. But it’s also very true.

Why so?

Because the reader of history counts on the story being true, since it was written by a historian, an authority on facts.

The reader of historical fiction understands that the story is a novel, a made-up story, and doesn’t expect it to be all facts. But that reader wants to become personally engrossed in a good story, and can’t if it doesn’t feel true to life. That reader isn’t seeking to get carried away into Narnia or a spaceship fantasy, but into the real past, to understand how the present came to be what it is.

It’s likely that the reader of historical fiction already has some knowledge of history, a little of it or a great deal of it, and cherishes that knowledge.

If that reader comes upon something that obviously can’t be true, then the spell is broken. The reader feels insulted, even betrayed, and will just quit reading it, or, worse, start scanning it for other outrageous errors, and, finding a few, might start bad-mouthing the author to fellow readers.

Knowledge creates nit-pickers. To put it a nicer way, reading makes us think, and thinking gradually makes us more discriminating.

A serious historical novelist wants discriminating readers, readers with a sincere interest in the true historic context, not just gullible, gape-mouthed fun-seekers. Over many years, much historical fiction earned a bad name for the genre by being non-researched costume drama, bodice-ripping, swashbuckling escape literature.

It could be fun to write such stuff, with no research, without regard for the context of real history. Myth and legend thrive in the storyteller’s imagination, and the temptation is to invent, titillate the reader, facts be damned.

It was just luck, not any intelligent decision on my part, that I got off on what I believe is the right foot in this historical fiction business. It wasn’t even Mark Twain’s quote; I didn’t run into that until I was already established.

No, what made me pursue historically accurate and credible fiction was that historians were the people who got me into this field in the first place. Here’s how:

I had never even meant to write historical fiction. But back in the 1970s when the United States Bicentennial was looming, somebody from the Indiana Historical Society got in touch with me and suggested that I might write some sort of dramatization of the deeds of George Rogers Clark, Indiana’s predominant Revolutionary War hero.

It was (as Twain said) almost unbelievable that that very young Virginian could have led a handful of backwoods militiamen out to the Mississippi River and wrested  control from the British of all the frontier territory between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, without losing a man in the grueling winter march of 1779 and capture of the British fort at Vincennes.

It was unbelievable, but it happened, and it was such a story that I couldn’t have made up anything so dramatic. I wanted to do it justice, and the historians were willing to help me with research. I felt as if they were watching over my shoulder as I told this crucial story.

And so I ended up completing the novel “Long Knife” (the Indians’ name for the Virginians) in time for publication on the 200th anniversary of his victory. Soon the book was being sold at historical sites and parks, and was being assigned as supplemental  reading in history classes, even though it was a novel, not a textbook.

It was then that I fully realized why I must not take liberties with real history:

Because if vivid storytelling could get students to learn a little history, it should be what really happened.

Ten novels later, I’m still operating on that principle.


James Alexander Thom believes that the way to understand history is “to be in it when it’s happening.”

He is an Indiana-born Marine veteran, and was a newspaperman, magazine freelance writer, and Indiana University Journalism School lecturer before he became a full-time historical novelist, known for his thorough research in archives and in the field. His American frontier and Indian war novels have won national awards and sold more than two million copies. Two were made into television films, by Hallmark and Ted Turner. Thom’s family history drew him to the Civil War era.  His namesake was killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg, and his great grandfather survived the deathly Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp.

Comfort, Then and Now

By James Alexander Thom

We modern Americans have so many comforts of all kinds that we can hardly imagine what hardships our ancestors endured just to get through their days. That is an important truth that a good historical writer should strive to reveal in the course of telling a story. Our forebears deserve our admiration.

Think of it:

Until steam and internal combustion and electrical engines, all work had to be done by muscle power: our muscles, and the muscles of slaves or animals. That means that through all the millennia until one or two centuries ago, labor and toil were simply the costs of survival.

Needing water, you had to bring it up and carry it; you couldn’t just turn on a faucet. If you wanted hot water, you had to find and cut wood, by muscular effort, and make a fire to heat the water.

Without electricity and furnaces, you needed candles, lamps and wood or coal fires to give you light and warmth, and you had to make or fetch the fuel.

There was no warm indoor bathroom, no flush toilet. It was like camping your whole life long, in that regard. Add that there were no deodorants, and smells were discomforts of their own sort.

Food had to be grown, harvested, husbanded, herded or hunted, and butchered, transported and prepared by hand, without electric toasters, blenders, microwaves, and preserved in many toilsome ways, including the cutting and carrying of ice.

Clothing had to be spun, woven, sewed by hand, houses built and household utensils crafted.

Just getting from place to place required effort, and there were few roads, and the traveler was subject to the weather. Imagine crossing a county or state or continent without a climate-controlled car, train, bus or plane.

Doctoring was so primitive that pain and death were what you had to expect if you got hurt or sick.

In combat there were no helicopters to lift the wounded off the battlefield, there were no anesthetics or antiseptics. There were lice and fleas everywhere, and no insecticides.

You become aware of all those efforts and discomforts when you heed any story from the past.

And it might occur to you that one of our greatest modern comforts is not a physical one:

Back then, you could not just get in touch with a loved one by dialing up a voice or tapping a keyboard. If someone was away on a voyage, or at war, you just had to wait, weeks or even years, to learn by a letter or word of mouth, whether that dear one was even still alive. In those days, anyone away from home was a missing person.

Reading well-researched history, if nothing else, should make you thank your Creator for the modern comforts.


In Once Upon a Time It Was Now, best-selling author James Alexander Thom (Follow the River, From Sea to Shining Sea, Sign-Talker) gives you the tools you need to research and create stories born from the past that will move and inspire modern readers.

James Alexander Thom is an Indiana-born Marine veteran, and was a newspaperman, magazine freelance writer, and Indiana University Journalism School lecturer before he became a full-time historical novelist, known for his thorough research in archives and in the field. His American frontier and Indian war novels have won national awards and sold more than two million copies. Two were made into television films, by Hallmark and Ted Turner. Thom’s family history drew him to the Civil War era.  His namesake was killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg, and his great grandfather survived the deathly Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp. Several years as Ohio River historical lecturer for the Delta Queen line provided technical knowledge and riverboat lore for this book. The author is also an artist and sculptor. James and his wife Dark Rain live in a 170-year-old log house near Bloomington, Indiana.

How to Prepare for a Teacher Interview

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day! To all teachers out there, we wish you a happy and healthy day. You work hard to offer others the knowledge you have and we thank you for that.

Some of you may not yet have a teaching position and are currently looking. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, we have some helpful hints for you to ace your teacher interview.

By Anthony D. Frederick, Ed.D., author of Ace Your Teacher Interview, 2nd Edition

How to Prepare for a Teacher Interview, from Ace Your Teacher Interview, 2nd edition

Ace Your Teacher Interview

Ace Your Teacher Interview

The time and effort you put into getting ready for an interview will often be reflected in the success you will enjoy in an interview. And, please take my word for it, an interviewer will quickly know who

has taken that time and who has made that extra effort to get ready for an interview. That effort will be revealed in the depth of the responses and the breadth of experiences brought to the interview.

Thorough preparation before an interview is just as important as what happens in an interview. Ignore the preparation and you are essentially “shooting yourself in the foot” – putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage even before you say your first word or answer your first question.

One of the most important things you can do in advance of any interview is a self-assessment. This evaluation of your abilities, skills, and talents will help you know what you are good at, and is essential in communicating that information to interviewers. With this list you will be in a better position to demonstrate how your unique set of abilities can be used to educate youngsters in a particular school or district. Arrive at an interview with your strengths in mind and you’ll arrive with the confidence to do well.

Getting ready for an interview may be just as important as the interview itself. Take the time to practice, prepare, and practice again and you will give yourself a decided advantage over all the other potential candidates. The amount of work and effort you devote to the interview before it occurs frequently reaps incredible benefits after the interview is over.

Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D

Anthony Fredericks is a nationally recognized educator well known for his practical teacher materials and stimulating and engaging conference presentations.  A professor of education at York College of Pennsylvania, he is an award-winning and best-selling author of more than 150 books, including teacher resource materials (Guided Reading in Grades 3-6), children’s books (Mountain Night, Mountain Day; The Tsunami Quilt), and adult non-fiction titles (The Secret Life of Clams).  His extensive background includes experience as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, professional storyteller, curriculum coordinator, educational consultant, and staff developer.

A Tribute to Steelers Owner Dan Rooney

By Andrew Conte, author of The Color of Sundays, 2017 Blue River Press

The Color of Sundays tells this uniquely American story by tracing Bill Nunn Jr.’s life story.

A few months after Bill Nunn Jr. died, his former boss Dan Rooney saw me at Steelers headquarters one day, smiled and told me, “Well that worked out perfectly for you.”

It had taken me months to resume work on the book, The Color of Sundays, after Nunn died, and I was unsure what Rooney meant. “How could that be?” I responded.

“Well, he told you all of his stories,” Rooney said, “and now that he’s dead, you can say whatever you want.”

He laughed as he said it, and I joined with him. It was true that Nunn had been particular about what I intended to write about him, shying away from all of the attention the book was sure to bring.

In the days, weeks and years ahead, much will be written about Rooney too, now that he has died, Thursday at age 84. The highlights are many: He transformed the team started by his father, Art Rooney Sr., from a losing franchise into one with more championships than any other. In later life, he served a meaningful role as the United States’ ambassador to Ireland. And, of course, he privately loved his large family and a wide circle of friends.

His largest legacy, however, might be the impact he had on integrating professional football and life. One year after the Steelers had formed in 1933, the league owners unofficially collaborated to remove blacks from the game. Art Rooney had gone along with it, and the Steelers lost their one black player, Ray Kemp.

Art Rooney had many African American friends and spent much time in the Hill District with people such as Gus Greenlee, a numbers runner who started the Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro leagues team.

Still, his son, Dan, seemed to feel the need to atone for what the Steelers and the league had done in those early years. He had seen the injustice – and the impracticality – of keeping blacks from the National Football League.

Dan had made the decision to hire Nunn, who used his knowledge of historically black colleges and universities to discover African American players who otherwise might never have found their way to professional sports. I make the case that Rooney’s decision and Nunn’s contribution, more than any other, turned the Steelers of the 1970s into four-time Super Bowl champions.

Later in life, when the player ranks were fully integrated, Dan Rooney realized that the coaching ranks remained racially divided. He was among the team owners who pushed for change, leading to the “Rooney Rule,” a measure requiring teams to interview at least one African American candidate before hiring a new coach.

The league had to acknowledge it had a problem and then take steps to address it – rather than just ignoring reality. The rule also led to the Steelers taking a closer look at an African American coaching candidate, Mike Tomlin, before hiring him in 2007. He has led the team to two Super Bowls, winning one.

In the end, no matter what people say about Dan Rooney, his legacy will endure as someone who pushed football – and society – to acknowledge its shortcomings on race and to do better.

Andrew Conte


Andrew Conte is the author of is the author of the best-selling book Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Rebirth and the Silver Benjamin Franklin Award-winning book, The Color of Sundays. Andrew is a graduate of Dickinson College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.